All Articles
All Articles
FOOD + DRINK

East London Liquor Company

Bringing distilling back to the East End with distinct craft spirits done in the old style

by Cajsa Carlson
on 21 July 2014
east-london-liquor-company-5-alt-2.jpg

Gin has long been the classic London drink, and the spirit is making a comeback in the city’s cocktail scene. At the border of Victoria Park in Tower Hamlets, a new distillery and bar, East London Liquor Company, is bringing locally made gin back to the area, which has an extensive history of liquor-making. Founder Alex Wolpert previously ran the London bar and restaurant Barworks, until his passion for gin led him to try creating the perfect version himself. Alongside him are master distiller Jamie Baxter and distiller Tom Hills, both from City of London Distillery.

East London Liquor Company might be reintroducing gin-making to Tower Hamlets, but it’s offering a very different drink than the one that got the nickname “Mother’s Ruin” in the 18th century. The distillery produces a London Dry Gin, which Wolpert describes as “very juniper-forward, citrusy and dry,” as well as two premium gins. The new outfit will also be producing its own vodka and whiskey, making it the first whiskey distillery to open north of the Thames in over a century. We spoke to Wolpert and Hills about the story behind the bar and distillery, and about what makes their gin unique.

east-london-liquor-company-12-alt.jpg
What made you decide to start your own distillery, and how would you describe the gin you produce?

Alex Wolpert: I’m not a distiller but I’ve made drinks and sold drinks. I’ve been in the industry a long time and always wanted to make a good liquid, an interesting celebration of what gin can be. When people tell me they don’t like gin, it’s usually because they haven’t tried the right one. We grow a lot of the botanicals that we use in the gin in our garden and all the liquor is made here. We try to keep as much of the production in-house as possible.

Our two premium gins came about when I gave Jamie Baxter a list of contrasting botanicals to go for. He did two test runs, and they were both so good that we just thought, “What the hell, we’ll do two premium gins.” One is dry and citrusy and has notes of Darjeeling and grapefruit, among others. The other is much more herbaceous and has sage, bay leaves, lavender, fennel and thyme. They both have quite a high ABV, to really push the flavor through. You wouldn’t want to mix the gin because the finish is so long. You want to use it in a martini, for example. We really try to celebrate gin and what it can be.

east-london-liquor-company-2-alt-2.jpg
Why choose the Tower Hamlets/Hackney area to open in?

AW: I spent 18 months searching for a venue and looked all over east London. It didn’t have to be in the east, but part of the idea behind East London Liquor Company was to bring back an industry that used to be here. This entire area used to be full of distilleries. The space we’re in is a former pub, but we’ve completely changed it. It’s good because it’s big enough to have a bar to showcase the spirits—it’s really all about de-mystifying distilling. And the fact that everything is done on the premises means there’s a sense of ownership of the process as well as of the product. There’s an autonomy to it, which is great.

East London Liquor Company is bringing gin production back to the area, but how similar is the process now to what it would have been a century ago?

Tom Hills: With major producers—for example, Gordon and Tanqueray—the process of making gin has changed over time to meet demand. What the second “gin craze” that’s going on now has done is taken the production of gin back to the way it was traditionally done, which was in a batch process rather than a continuous process. Very big producers use a two-shot process. They distill their botanicals at a much higher concentration with a smaller amount of alcohol, and then add that to a neutral spirit. So they’re basically making a gin concentrate and “alcohol-ing” it down. Whereas a one-shot process, which is what we use and everyone who is a craft distiller uses, means that every bit of alcohol that’s in the bottle has passed through a still. So in that sense, craft distillers make gin the traditional way.

east-london-liquor-company-4-alt-2.jpg
You use custom-made stills from Bodensee, Germany. Could you tell us a bit about how they work?

TH: The shape of these stills and the fact that they’re made of copper is a very traditional thing, but they’ve got all the modern bells and whistles hiding behind the traditional exterior. They’ve got a rectification column, dephlegmator, all kinds of modern technology built into them, ensuring that we have the greatest control possible over consistency and quality. We have electrical controls and a steam jacket. Whereas before it would have been done over open heat, but essentially what we’re doing is taking things back to how it was, albeit with slightly more safety measures in place. Health and Safety would not be happy if we were trying to distill gin over an open fire!

For more information about the spirits, distillery, bar and the team behind them, visit East London Liquor Company online.

Images courtesy of East London Liquor Company

The CH25 is a showcase of creators and innovators from a broad range of disciplines who are currently working to drive the world forward.

Melissa Kushner

Addressing the needs of orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi through microenterprise

Read More
Poverty is complicated, there is an increasing temptation and pressure in the development space to oversimplify things

Lulu Mickelson

A civic leader bringing change to NYC through design

Read More
Human-centered design is one of the many tools that we can use to better engage the public

Tal Danino

The bioengineer who’s programming DNA to fight cancer

Read More
[Manipulating genes] is very new, people are just learning how to program these organisms

Joshua Harker

Pushing the boundaries of sculpture with intricate 3D printing

Read More
My intent was to explore and depict the architecture of the imagination, to interpret and share forms evident in the mind’s eye

Vanessa Newman

Redesigning pregnancy for the post-gender generation with Butchbaby & Co.

Read More
I want my customers to feel comfortable and unchanged, in that becoming pregnant didn't take away from or compromise their identity

Tarren Wolfe

The next-generation appliance making kitchens greener—literally

Read More
Our goal is to provide food for everyone in the world, and the best place to start is in our very own community

Kathleen Supové

The NYC performance artist who’s radically reinventing the piano recital

Read More
I like pieces that are virtuosic, that show off the piano and what it can do, and are awe-inspiring

Eelke Plasmeijer

The locally driven restaurant that’s upending Balinese food culture

Read More
We really try to keep things simple and let the produce do the talking

Meredith Perry

How searching the Internet helped a 22-year-old invent wireless electricity

Read More
It’s not about where the information is, it’s about how you use the tools

Sabine Seymour

A future where smart clothes are as ubiquitous as zippers

Read More
In the future you will not buy a piece of 'functional' clothing without SoftSpot

Dan Barasch + James Ramsey

A quest to make the future brighter—underground

Read More
We both share a passion for groundbreaking technology and a shared love of New York

Kegan Schouwenburg

Revolutionizing orthotics through 3D-printed insoles

Read More
What orthotics do is they effectively change the geometry of what your alignment is like

Douglas Riboud + Justin Guilbert

How a mission to create great coconut water led to a whole new way of doing business

Read More
We’ve made a conscious decision to be as transparent and honest as we can, and let people decide for themselves

Corinne Joachim Sanon

The chocolatier bringing social change to Haiti and bean-to-bar chocolate to the world

Read More
Seeing the poverty surrounding me and the lack of jobs and opportunity bothered me

Leopoldine Huyghues Despointes

The young filmmaker and non-profit founder who just wants people to follow their dreams

Read More
I feel confident and ready to accomplish so much more, the movement is on

Sarah Kunst

The entrepreneur single-handedly changing the landscape for women in tech

Read More
People who live on a planet that is half women but can never seem to find any when they need one, I have solved your problem

George Arriola and Monohm

An heirloom electronic for the post-smartphone era

Read More
We agonized during the design process as all hyper-obsessed craftspeople should

Marcus Weller

Using technology to turn motorcycle helmet design on its head

Read More
I was taken aback both by the number of people that doubted it, and by the equally large number of people that got behind it

LaToya Ruby Frazier

Documenting the slow, troubling change in Braddock, Pennsylvania

Read More
I am not a journalist, I am a conceptual documentary artist using my visual expression for building narratives that are unseen and unheard

Pauline van Dongen

The Dutch designer blazing the wearable technology path

Read More
I’m fascinated by concepts of change, movement, energy and perception; since they are closely related to the way we experience the world

Jonathan Sparks

Reinventing electronic music by inventing multi-disciplinary instruments

Read More
Recorded music is becoming so cheap, so the value of music is now in live performance

Roxie Darling

From un-shampoo to transgender identity, the NYC colorist boldly defining the next chapter of hair

Read More
Hair color is as much a science as it is a craft

Matt Kenyon

Fusing art and technology to disrupt concepts of corporate America

Read More
I want the work to live in the world and circulate, so it can generate more dialogue

Alex Kalman

The tiny museum in Manhattan that’s redefining museums

Read More
The mission is to put this small simple and powerful tool into the hands of as many people as possible

Cynthia Breazeal

How an emotional, empathetic robot named Jibo stands to revolutionize communication

Read More
The thing that's so provocative about social robots is that it's fundamentally a community technology
Loading More...